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Preservation is Progress 
..may we be worthy stewards... 

Chautauqua Historical Society 

Volume 5, Issue 3, Number 13 

Fall 2007 

• The Newsletter is 
published three times a year: 
winter, spring, and fall. 

• The Newsletter is a 
membership benefit at the 
Piasa Bluffs Assembly 
and Patron members. 

• PBA members have a 
membership in the 
Chautauqua Network. 

• CHS members are 
encouraged to submit articles 
to the editor for inclusion in 
the Newsletter. 

Inside this issue: 

The President's Message 

Mystery of the Piasa 

The Spring Hotel 

21st Century 

Memorials and a sense 
of history 

We have 13 PBA 
and 30 Patron members, 
and will send this Newsletter 
to 160 households. 

Waterfall and Piasa Spring, a Chautauqua memorial, story on page 7. 


Digitized by the Internet Archive 

in 2010 with funding from 

CARL!: Consortium of Academic and Research Libraries in Illinois 




The Pre^idei^t's 
I had a wonderful 
time this summer at 
the Chautauqua 
Network conference 
at Chautauqua, New 
York. 1 had an 
opportunity to talk 
with folks from 
other places around 
the country about 

how they were preserving their community history. One 

topic was memorials. 

There are so many areas around our Chautauqua grounds 
have memorials dedicated to special people who have 
been part of our community. Many types of memorials 
are represented - benches, trees, garden pieces, bookcases 
in the library, the Carillon, the rug in the Indian Giver, the 
furnishings of the Administration Building and much 
more. All of these memorials represent very special 
people, but through the years some are forgotten. Tree 
tags are lost, signs disappear and information is buried in 
New Piasa Board and LCIA records, old Program Books, 
the Channels and other publications, and some are just 

Last summer our Tuesday Archival group collected and 
recorded memorial information. We took the material we 
received and entered it into the computer. A printed copy 
of this information is in the archival collection at the 
Administration Building and the information is also 
copied to discs and placed in our new safe. 

This is the way we hope to preserve our entire collection 
of Chautauqua history, storage of our priceless historical 
photographs and documents in a safe place and informa- 
tion entered into a computer program designed for 
historical preservation. The computer information is 
then transferred to discs and stored safely. 

We need an Archives Center. We have outgrown the Ad 
Building and are looking at space on the second floor of 
the Kentucky Home. The Network meeting gave me a lot 
to think and dream about. The Chautauqua Institution 
Archives is located in the Oliver Archives Center, a new 
separate building constructed specifically to preserve their 
history. Mt. Gretna in Pennsylvania has just purchased a 
cottage and is redoing it into an archival building. In 
Lakeside Ohio the Lakeside Heritage Archives occupies 
an entire building devoted to research materials pertaining 
to the Mother Chautauqua, the Independent Chautauquas 
and the Tent Chautauquas. The Bay View Association in 
Michigan also has a wonderful building just for their 
archival history. 

Here at NPC we have managed to preserve and collect 
many pieces that have been stored under beds and in 
basements and attics. We have accomplished much, 
giving us a feeling of great satisfaction. We want to move 
ahead. I hope every CHS member, every Chautauquan, 
will support our eflForts to plans for an archival room 
where work can be done and there is sate storage space. 
1 know there is so much more memorial information 
out there. It would be a shame if Chautauqua forgot a 
memorial to a family member or friend's history. Please 
write down what you know about a memorial and send it 
to me. 1 will be sure that your material is not only placed 
in the collection, but also entered into the computer data. 

Rose Tomlinson 


.... may we be worthy stewards... 

Address inquires and other communications to 

Tim Tomlinson 

Editor, CHS Newsletter 

Post OlTice Box 87, Elsah, Illinois 62028 

Phone: 618-374-1518; email: 

Printed by Abbey Graphic & Desigrv Alton, Illinois; color printing funded in part by Pitisa Bluffs Assembly members. 

The mission and purpose of the Chautauqua Historical Society is the preservation and enhancement of the historic traditions and 

culture of New Piasa Chautauqua. Chautauqua, Illinois, the encouragement of historical research on the Chautauqua community and nearby 

historic districts, the publication of historical brochures, pamphlets, and other written material on New Piasa Chautauqua, remaining 

permanent assemblies and chautauquas in other parts of the United States and the national Chautauqua movement, and the establishment 

of an educational program to inform the Chautauqua community and the general public of the historical and educational value of New Piasa 





We started an article in our Febniary 2004 issue in the following manner: 

Editor's Note: The foregoing is reprinted without typographical or grammatical 
change from The Pima Daily Chautauquan, published from July 21 (first issue) 
to Wednesday, August 18, 1897. This was the first year of publishing a daily 
newspaper at Piasa Chautauqua, and this article appeared every day, 
apparently a "filler" piece. 

you can see that one section is taken from Marquette's report of his visit to 

this area. It's clear, from this account, that Marquette and his party saw a 
representation of two birds, not one. We welcome your comments and other 
input, dear Readers.... 

Long time Chautauquan and PBA member Phil Polster An alternate explanation is provided by Mark Nickless 
accepted our otTer and provided an opportunity to suggest and described in an 'independent Research" 

new information about the Piasa Bird, truly different 
information. The original account by Father Marquette 
described two figures; remember that fact. 

Phil Polster suggested a book by Gavin Menzies, 1421, 
The Year China Discovered America, published in 2002. 
Polster also gave an internet address for a short piece that 
focused on that part of Menzies' book that described 
Chinese exploration in the Mississippi River Valley, 
including the possibility that Chinese sailors were in our 
present Chautauqua area. (On your browser line, type in 
Mark Nickless Piasa Bird.) We believe Nickless is the 
author, but decided to go directly to the book, 1421. It's 
a good read! 

Menzies presents the following theory: Four large 
Chinese fleets were directed to sail from China and 
explore the world, far and wide, and did so, circumnavi- 
gating the world between 1421-23. Chinese explorers 
visited the Central Mississippi at this time. "Independent 
Research" from a group that could be called "The 1421 
Society" suggests that what Marquette saw in 1 673 was 
indeed two figures painted on the limestone bluffs, but 
not figures telling the story of a regional monster in 
Indian legend/lore, but Chinese dragons 

article connected to the 1421 group. Nickless claims, 
having read Menzies' book, the bird(s) are not birds at 
all, and there were two, as described by Marquette. If 
not birds, then what? Chinese imperial dragons, and more 
particularly the dragon motif favored by Huang Di, the 
famous Chinese "Yellow Emperor." Nickless finds 
eleven identical features in common for the Piasa Bird 
described by Marquette and Huang Di's imperial dragon. 
These commonalities include use of red, black, and 
green as (imperial) colors, the absence of wings, and 
a human-like fiice. 

Nickless claims the original site of the painting was just 
above Elsah, at the site of the quarry that was opened in 
the 1 850s by Colonel James Semple, and from which 
came the rock that built so many Elsah homes. One might 
argue, as an interpretive theory, the two imperial 
dragons painted at this Elsah site represented for these 
early Chinese explorers the power and force of the two 
great rivers coming together. 

As we asked in 2004, what do you think, gentle reader? 
On your browser line, type in Mark Nickless Piasa Bird. 

The "original" version of the mythical 
"devourer of men" monster is generally 
attributed to John Russell of Bluffdale, 111., a 
professor at Shurtleff College in Godfrey. 
Russell's tale had the monster (one, not two, 
as described by Marquette) vanquished by a 
local chief, Ouatoga, who used himself as 
bait to trap the monster. Most of the literature 
available locally uses the Russell story to tell 
the Piasa Bird legend. 

Paintings described 
by Marquette, as 
re-created by 
Laurie Nickless 




St. Louisans Take Charge of 


And Make Success of Vacation Venture, 


Fire at Illinois Village 

Some folks are never happy unless they have their 
fingers in a pie, 'tis said, and a certain group of St. Louis 
society women ran the risk of being accused of this, 
when they took over the management of the hotel at 
Chautauqua, 111., this summer. 

However, if they did poke their fingers in a pie, 
like the Little Jack Homer, they pulled out a plum, 
and are entitled to as much appreciation as this 
aforementioned youth of the Mother Goose tales. 
The plum they extracted took the form of a gain 
of nearly $3000, and the satisfaction of having 
provided facilities for the many persons that 
frequent this village on the Mississippi. 

Visitors to this place gazed hard at certain young 
girls and women whom they were positive they 
had met at one of the country clubs or exclusive 
social functions during the winter, yet who were 

then dishing up chicken salad behind the counter at 

the cafeteria or making change at the cashier's 
cage. But when they found that the Ladies' Civic 
Improvement Association. . .is made up of these women 
and that they were going to do some civic improving, if 
they had to do it with their own hands, the mystery was 

The story began last year when the Inn at Chautauqua 
burned. After that there was not hotel at the place, and 
the women who owned cottages there and spend their 
vacations there thought there should be one. 
Mrs. G. V. R. Mechin, 5088 Raymond avenue, was 
elected President of the Board of Directors (LCI A), and 
with $ 1 400 borrowed from the management at 
Chautauqua the women took hold of an old residence 
which they transformed into the Spring Hotel. 

Each woman took one of the rooms and furnished it. 
That's the reason for the names over the doors of the 
rooms, where ordinary hotels have numbers. One of the 
rooms downstairs was given over to a place where story 
telling and fancy work classes were held. With the com- 
mon interest all felt in the place it became a comfortable 

center for the whole Chautauqua village. Miss , 

who, during the winter is dean of Jubilee Hall at Linden- 
wood College, was the hostess of the hotel. But $1 per 

day was charged for the rooms, yet so successful was it 
that $1500 was cleared. 

But the hotel, once equipped and well started on its 
career, needed little attention from the women. What 
at times put everything else out of consideration was 
the cafeteria. For it, when the boat with supplies from 
St. Louis didn't bring them, all the cottages were 
searched for the necessary eggs or butter or fruit. 

For it, the handsome cars of the folks who stayed there 
were appropriated for trucks to haul produce from nearby 
farms. And for it the women would go into the kitchen 

and cut ham or bread or wash dishes, perhaps in their 
best frocks, if the call came at a time when they were in- 
advertently "dressed up." 

Mrs. Mechin tells about the night of the Fourth of July, 
when the dishwasher was dismissed because he was in 
such an intoxicated condition that he couldn't have 
washed dishes, anyway, and how she and her son and 
daughter washed dishes until midnight. On another 
occasion, when there were no eggs in the larder of the 
cafeteria, everyone donated eggs from their own supplies 
until four dozen had been gathered and were available 
for breakfast the next morning. 

When servants gave notice, an "S.O.S." was sent over 
the grounds and the men as well as the women re- 
sponded However, some times husbands of certain 

women objected to the labor which the women did when 
they were supposed to be taking a rest at this resort. And 
then these women were excused from active duty — until 
the husbands returned to SL Louis on business. The 
pretty young girls were used as "decoys" to loiter around 
the line which formed when all could not get into the 
cafeteria at the same time, and kept the people in good 

Continued on next page. 




Despite the fact that the women made enough money to 
pay back the $ 1 400 loan, paid the rent, amounting to 
about $400, and cleared $700 besides, $200 of which 
accrued from an auction sale of produce at the end, the 
meals were priced reasonably and the costs of a day's 
food totaled only about $1 .50. 

Mrs. E. G. Lasar could be seen every morning outside 
the cafeteria door, writing on the blackboard the menu, 
the various dishes to be served, and the price of them. 
Mrs. Lasar was the Chairman of the Cafeteria 

Committee. Mrs. C. A. Truitt of 5500 (Mrs.) Charles 

Newcomb...the treasurer, and frequently acted as the 
cashier, as did Mrs. Louis G, Kurtzebom of 5938 Cates 
avenue, assistant treasurer. Mrs. R. H. Macy of East St. 
Louis was assistant manager, and Mrs. Christian Bemet, 
17 Windermere Place, and Mrs. S. S. Pingree, 
43 Washington terrace, also members of the board. 

"If it hadn't been so much fun we would have died," 
said Mrs. Mechin on her return to St. Louis Thursday 
after closing up the affairs at Chautauqua, Sept. 1 . 

"As it was we laughed at difficulties, worked in close 
cooperation, serving without any salaries, paying for our 
meals at our own cafeteria, and closed the season warmer 
friends than when we started." 

The Springs Hotel was torn down in 1 969. It had ceased 
to be a hotel long before its demolition. Its perceived lack 
of functionality was probably an important factor in the 
decision to tear the building down. The razing occurred 
1 3 years before our community was given Historic 
District status. It does represent, however, an instance in 
which the community decided not to preserve an historic 
building, one that had a rich and complex heritage. 
Not long ago a similar decision was faced by the commu- 
nity, what to do about the Kentucky Home. Fortunately, 
the community chose the path o^ preservation, and, 
with a combination of restoration and adaptive re-use 
principles, created a space that has become a focal point 
for community activity during the season. 

The Historical Society played an important role in the 
development of the "new" Kentucky Home. We hope 
soon to come to the community with further ideas about 
this important historic building. 




Chautauquas in the 21st Century 

Not long ago I had a conversation with NPC President 
Bill Jackson in which he told me about contacting folks 
at the Monteagle Sunday School Assembly and asking 
for a copy of their annual program. The MSSA is located 
in Monteagle, TN. It has called itself the "Chautauqua of 
the South" for well over one hundred years, founded in 
1 883. Bill was surprised to learn this last fact, he told me. 
He had thought our New Piasa Chautauqua was the 
second oldest Chautauqua. 

Not so, I told him. We are far from the second oldest, 
even among the 
remaining 1 1 per- 
manent assemblies. 
Present day, we 
are the seventh 
oldest Chautau- 
qua still 
conducting an 
annual program. 

Most of what we 
know about the 
other chautauquas 
comes from the 
"Mother" site, and 
from our contacts 
in the Chautauqua 
Network. The Net- 
work meets once a 
year at a different 
site each year. The 
2007 meeting was 

in New York. The 2008 meeting will be at the Monteagle 
Sunday School Assembly in Tennessee. 

Rose and Tim Tomlinson attended the 2007 Network 
meeting in New York. It was Rose's second conference 
and the third for Tim. They have also visited each of the 
10 other remaining permanent assembly sites at one time 
or another in the past four years. 

This year's New York meeting was different from other 
recent meetings because, in part, the attendees included 
general members and officers of the other sites and 
permanent staff from some of the larger institutions. 
This was true for the Lakeside Chautauqua, the Colorado 
Chautauqua, Ocean Park Chautauqua (in Maine), Bay 
View, and of course, the Chautauqua Institution. We 
had an opportunity to listen to Directors and Executive 
Directors and Accountants and Business Managers and 
lawyers, all paid staff. 

Porch gladiolas are eveiywhere m sig^ when you walk 
the grounds of the Chautauqua Institudon iu New Yotk 
and the Bay View Assembly in Michigan. 

Pwch life rs ines»:apablc when your cottage ha.s diis many porches. Photo taken al the 
(Thautauqua Institution, Chautauqua, New York, July 2007. 

We had an opportunity to listen to hiring practices, rental 
and membership policies, risk management problems, 
whether alcohol could be consumed at public events 
and/or in restaurants, and so on. Still, there was time to 
discuss programs, the role of religion, and the primacy of 
activities for children and family. What we learned again 
that the 2 1 St century Chautauquas are very different from 
one another, and, at the same time, very much alike. 

Piasa Blitffs Assembly members of the Chautauqua 
Historical Society are automatically enrolled as members 
of the Chautauqua Network, and receive a bi-annual 
Newsletter from the Network and an invitation to the 
annual conference. The tentative dates for the 2008 meet- 
ing at Monteagle are July 1 7-20. There is a registration 
fee for the conference that includes daily gate charges 
and most meals. "Cottage stay" is encouraged, where you 
are the guest of a local cottage owner on the grounds. 
The schedule includes special Network meetings and an 
opportunity to participate in the host's program. Why not 
consider making a summer visit to Monteagle your first 
Chautauqua Network conference? Talk to Rose or Tim 
for further information. 

Monteagie Cottage 




Memorials and a sense of history 

New Piasa Chautauqua is a close, tightly knit commu- 
nity, and, over the course of more than a hundred and 
twenty seasons, has developed a keen sense of who we 
are and what we are and what our place means. A sense 
of history asks that we remember, that we pay attention 
to the past. Communities do that by the memorials they 
create, their reminders of the past. Towns are named 
after founders, as are parks, streets, arenas, public 
buildings, colleges and universities, and so on. 

Perhaps the most visible and dramatic memorial on our 
grounds is the Osbom Memorial complex, pictured on 
our cover, and rising above the historic Piasa Spring. 
Ralph Osbom provided leadership and inspiration for 
this project, and was the principal donor. Bill Cann 
presented an architectural sketch approved by Osbom 
and the NPC board, and work was completed in 1967 
and dedicated on July 2, 1 967. Osbom tells us in his 
Centennial History that he hoped the project would 
inspire others to make memorial gifts to the commu- 
nity. The centennial stone was dedicated in 1985; a rose 
garden (long gone) was installed two years later. 

Other major physical sites include Flint Park, named 
for the Flint family connected to and influential at 
Chautauqua for almost a hundred years; Schwaninger 
Field, named for Earl Schwaninger, father of David 
Schwaninger, the swimming pool named for Joe Meisel 
in 1988; and, the Shuffleboard pavilion in honor of 
William Niegarth, president of the Board in 1944-45. 

The historic auditorium is not named, nor are most of 
the other public buildings. An exception is the Admini- 
stration Building, named in honor of Joseph Rain, Sr. 
The Chaf)el is named for Emma Kupferle, who was a 
leading force in raising the ftinds for its construction. It 
is rarely referred to as the "Kupferle Chapel." 
A number of memorials are connected to the Chapel. 
The twelve stained glass windows in the main section 

are all named as memorials, and there are three 
additional windows in the small room at the northwest 
annex of the building. Two white wicker fern stands are 
memorials to Maxine Allen, given by her husband. Bob 
Allen, who gave also the six concrete urns that decorate 
the fi-ont steps of the building. Memorials take many 
form — the Sunday school songbooks were 
given in memory of Eula Rain. Gordon and Betty 
Gmndmann gave the large painting on the rear south 
wall, in memory of Betty's uncle, Milton Frenzel, the 
artist. Tom Hagemann donated the concrete bench near 
the Chapel, in memory of his sister, Betty Hagemann 

Other benches are part of the memorial system. A small 
Vermont granite bench all Chautauqua men and women 
who have served in our military forces. Betty Mattery 
gave a bench in memory of her husband, Paul, the 
bench located above the entrance to the Boardwalk. A 
bench set in the Playground and comprised of three sec- 
tions of Vermont granite is in memory of David Miller. 

The Ladies Civic Improvement Association has led the 
way in creating and caring for many of the memorial 
settings and artifacts in our community. The LCIA 
have been very active over the years in planting 
memorial and commemorative trees, adding beauty to 
the community landscape. Several such trees are 
planted in the Remembrance Garden, adjacent to the 
Willman cottage. Only a few trees in the community 

Consider this imaginative way 
to capture recent memories, and to store them safely. 

Order now for this Christmas 

The Historical Society presents 

a special disc of 

the children of Chautauqua 

Children's Day Pageant 2007 


Lee Wagers 

W/onderful pictures of the run through. 

dress rehearsal and Pageant night. 

Different shots from different places and 

lots of single shots. All groups and 

everyone is included. 

1st disc is SIC - each additional copy is S5 

For sale at the Jersey Door 

AH me prolit?; ^jiu go to t^ie hij^torjciii Society 

Continued on page 8 

^ ) 




Continued Jrom page 7 


Joe A Meisel Jr. 



When the pool at Chautauqua 
was rebuilt in the 1950s, it was 
dedicated to John M. Homer. The 
pool was re-dedicated in 1 989 to 
the memory of Joe Meisel, a 
long-time and beloved resident of 
the community. The "Gazebo 
Swing" (picture right) in the 
LCIA Memorial Garden was 
given to Chautauqua by friends 
of Jean Chevalley. Jean's son, 
Larry, made a generous contribu- 
tion in support of the swing. It 
was designed by Tim Tomlinson 
and built by a Richard Mosby, a 
local craftsman/woodworker. 

The Gazebo below is on St. Louis Circle, dedicated to the memories of Betsy Schaeffer, daughter of Charles and Ann 
Schaeffer, and Chuck Manion, son of Bob and Sally Manion, and later, the Manion's granddaughter Allison. The stone 
bench is located near the Playhouse on the Playground, and is dedicated to the memory of David Miller. The bench is 
formed by three naturally fitting pieces of Vermont granite. The Playground Playhouse is a memorial to Pauline 
Cochran and Francis Fine- Allen, Janet Schwaninger's maternal grandmother and paternal grandfather, respectively. 

Our Archival Project team will work again next season to move for- 
ward the recovery of lost information about memorials. We will need 
the support and cooperation of many of you. Think of this as a volun- 
teer activity, one that requires only that you search your memory for 
information that is probably lost to New Piasa Chautauqua. The idea 
of memorials goes beyond named buildings, trees, and benches. 
Consider this: the wallpaper and vinyl flooring in the Library was 
given by Helen Margaret Thatcher in memory of her mother, Cornelia 
Duhadway; 4 bookcases were purchased from gifts to the LCIA in 
memory of Dorothy Buerkle; the Bible on the piano in the Chapel was 
given by the families of Bill Grundmann and Gordon Grundmann in 
1992, in memory of their mother, June Grundmann. The Carillon that 
provides beautiful music every day to Chautauqua was given by 
Barbara Mennell in memory of her parents. The list can go on and on. 
Help us make it grow. Let us know what you know. 

M, - • j